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MTN Drags FG to Court For N3bn Over $1.3bn Tax Default Claim

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MTN Nigeria is seeking N3 billion in damages and legal costs from the federal government.

The telco is challenging the legality of N242 billion and $1.3 billion import duties and withholding tax demanded from it.

NAN reports that Wole Olanipekun, MTN’s lead counsel, on Thursday informed the federal high court of the various processes filed before it and served on respective parties to the suit.

MTN is demanding N3 billion on five grounds linked directly to the office of the attorney-general of the Federation (AGF).

The first ground is that a “revenue assets investigation” allegedly carried out by the federal government between 2007 to 2017 and conveyed through the office of the AGF by an August 20 letter, violates the provisions of Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.

MTN also claims that the AGF acted in excess of its powers by purporting to direct through its letter of May 10 a “self-assessment exercise” which usurps the powers of the Nigerian Customs Service to demand payment of import duties on the importation of physical goods.

Thirdly, it claims that the AGF acted illegally by usurping the powers of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to audit and demand remittance of withholding and value-added taxes.

Fourthly, it claims a “self-assessment” exercise instituted by the AGF via its letter of May 10, is unknown to law, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.

Finally, MTN is seeking a declaration that the AGF’s demand of N242 billion and $1.3 billion is premised on a process which is malicious, unreasonable and made on an incorrect legal basis.

MTN, therefore, sought a court order, vacating the AGF’s demand letter of August 20.

In his preliminary objection, the AGF, represented by TA Gazali, argued that the plaintiff commenced the suit in clear disregard to section 2 of the Public Officers Protection Act.

The law states that “any action commenced against a public officer, must be made within three months from the commencement of the cause of action”.

The defendant, therefore, argued that since the plaintiff failed to commence the suit within three months as stipulated by law, the court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain same.

Chukwujekwu Aneke, the presiding judge, adjourned the case till December 3.

MTN had also filed a similar suit against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The CBN had alleged improper dividend repatriations by MTN and requested that $8.1 billion should be returned to its coffers.

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